Is Paris Still the Fashion Capital of the World?

Paris.  The fashion capital of the world, or so it has been said.  Since the beginning of modern fashion design, Paris has been the center of new styles and fresh looks.  Perhaps its reputation began with Charles Frederick Worth (1826–1895), who was the first known fashion designer (and not simply a dress-maker) of the world. 

 Before the 1800s, fashion styles mainly trickled down from the royal courts.  When Worth set up his "maison couture" or "fashion house" in Paris, he started a trend that survived for many years.  Paris became an important city for fashion designers who followed in Worth's footsteps in order to discover new styles.  Even today, the Parisian fashion shows attract stylists and designers from all over the world.   

But so do those in New York City…and Milan…and London…even Tokyo attracts a fairly large crowd these days.  Despite its gleaming fashion reputation and boundless importance in the world of style, today the streets of Paris are surprisingly…unimpressive. 

The majority of clothing boutiques in the La Défense district of Paris greets their shoppers with American hip-hop beats (Beyonce's "Irreplaceable") and bright summer styles.  Peasant tops, flowing skirts, bright colors, large, funky jewelry, and lots of denim fill their shelves.  Without the French language flipping off the tongues of the employees, these small retail stores could be shops in any mall in America.

Even on the "Rive Gauche," a high-end Parisian shopping district, and in the "Forum des Halles," a huge underground mall, the styles are strikingly similar to those in the United States.  Only sweat clothing and casual shoes are missing from these boutiques, but they can easily be purchased somewhere else.  The lack of sweats and very casual clothes is also evident on the streets of Paris – the Parisian crowd seems to simply be a more professional, formal looking American crowd.  Other than that, the styles (women's that is, there are NO men who wear the oh-so-American baggy jeans and too-big T-shirts which the American men have adopted) are incredibly similar.  A few French women even wear sneakers and hooded sweatshirts.

Are other cities (Milan, London, New York City, etc.) moving in on the lead that Paris once had in fine fashion?  Though Paris has the history, it cannot be denied that other cities are producing styles and fashion shows that are just as impressive as those in Paris. Perhaps the whole issue is merely globalization and the spread of popular goods. Other American trends, such as music and cuisine have quickly spread to Paris. Anybody can sit at the "Centre Ville", wear stylish clothing, and look at the Eiffel Tower while eating a cheeseburger, drinking a Heineken, and listening to Fifty Cent on the radio. 

Globalization just may allow us all to enjoy the best of all worlds.  For some reason I doubt it.  The influx of similar fashion around the world could be caused by a number of things.  Whichever way you choose to look at it, the next time you go to Paris, don't forget your sneakers.

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